Customer Review

10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Keaton 5 stars, Kino 0, November 17, 2011
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This review is from: Sherlock Jr. / Three Ages [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
SHERLOCK Jr. is widely considered, along with THE GENERAL, to be a Keaton masterpiece.
In fact, critical opinion has shifted away from Chaplin--a brilliant mime but sentimental, naive politically,
and ingratiating to the point of being painful to watch sometimes--and toward Keaton as the major
innovator who really understood, almost immediately, the difference between making a movie
and just filming warmed-over vaudeville routines. SHERLOCK, Jr. even feels positively
"post-modern" in its self-reflection, it's that far ahead of its time. It's brilliant! So: always 5 stars from me
for the tough genius of Keaton.
But Kino is another matter. They've done a decent transfer of SHERLOCK, Jr.--though not the best Blu-ray B&W I've seen.
The issue for me here is THREE AGES; Kino seems to have done nothing in terms of cleaning up the transfer.
As another reviewer has commented, it looks terrible! It doesn't look any different than the version
in the original Kino box set of Keaton features and shorts released in the early '90s.
The reason, I think, is revealed in the restoration philosophy announced in Kino's Blu-ray 3-disc release of all 19 of the early shorts.
Some have 2 versions, the original and a 2nd transfer with digitally enhanced noise reduction for those of us
who prefer a more "polished look"--their words. Apparently this goes against their video principles,
since digital cleaning "subtly undermines the integrity of the image." Give me a break.
What's the point of releasing a Blu-ray version of "films that show wear" with no cleaning up of the transfer?
All the process does then is give us a more detailed look at the flaws. To me it sounds like an excuse
for sloppiness, or laziness. They could take a lesson from Criterion's handling of B&W Blu-rays, which are worth the extra money
because they look better. I was planning on eventually buying Kino's Blu-rays of the other Keaton features they've released.
But why just duplicate what I already have in those previous releases?
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 15, 2012 2:43:01 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 23, 2012 5:04:52 AM PDT
A. Holliday says:
Spot on Mr R! The Kino restoration 'philosophy' is nothing more than an excuse to not spend any money. The usual argument against such restoration is that it can remove the 'grain' of the film (So? How many film-makers set up their films to demonstrate film grain? Are we talking 16mm grain, 35mm grain? But I digress...). In any case this is only a problem if you run a film through such software without checking what you're doing. But the Keaton films have been patched together from so many different sources, at so many different levels of quality/contrast/etc that proper digital restoration is exactly what they need - and deserve. You only need to look at the restored Metropolis - and Kino has no trouble selling that (but then they didn't do the restoration) to see what a good restoration is capable of.

Given the nature of the market for these films, Kino might get some quick cash flow in the short term but they are shooting themselves in the foot in the long-term.

Posted on Dec 14, 2013 5:11:41 PM PST
Jonathan says:
I'm not here to defend Kino, but simply make the comment that "digital restoration" is often a lie, and I'd much rather look at a rough film print that is accurately transferred than a bogus digital clean-up. Of course a newly stuck, restored print would be ideal, but the best way to look at it is to view 'Three Ages' as a bonus add-on to the excellent 'Sherlock Jr.', which - although only 40-some minutes long - is a full cinematic feast in itself, and well worth the $15 for Blu-ray, or $10 for DVD version. This is a remarkable value for an incomparable masterwork and an interesting feature debut by Buster. Be grateful it's on a decent video at all, so many silents are impossible to find on video, let alone in (expensively) restored prints.
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